October 20, 2018 6 min read

Does it really matter when you eat?

We have all learned some information over the years about what to eat in order to meet your health and body composition goals. In this blog we will go over the big question “Is it all about calories in vs. calories out?” Does timing carbs have an impact on our body composition?

What is nutrient timing?

Nutrient timing simply means eating specific nutrients such as protein or carbs in a specific amount at specific times, such as before, during, or after exercise.

Researchers have explored this practice from different angles over the last few decades. And their findings have generated a lot of excitement. In the early 2000s, with the publication of Nutrient Timing: The Future of Sports Nutrition by Drs. John Ivy and Robert Portman, the idea of nutrient timing became the “Next Big Thing.”

So what does this mean in 2018 is this information still relevant to us? We will break down the information based on new studies.

Post workout nutrition and regular, anytime meals

We divided meals into post-workout or anytime, these categories implying that different meals should be eaten at different times of the day.

For example:

  1. Post workout meals are higher in Carbs, especially faster-digesting starchy carbs such as:
  1. Anytime meals are lower in carbs, focusing more on lean protein plus healthy fats and high-fiber vegetables.
  • Lean sources of protein.
  • Dark leafy greens.
  • Complex carbs such as Oatmeal.
  • Greek Yogurt.
  • Avocado.
  • Almonds.
  • Carrots.
  • Whole grain products.

The scientific evidence at the time seemed to show that this strategic placement of carbs could help hard-exercising people perform better while getting leaner, stronger, and healthier.

But the evidence wasn’t limited to athletes. Even type 2 diabetics respond better to carbohydrates after a carbohydrate-depleting workout. This is how nutrition timing was born.

How things have changed since the early 2000’s

To be honest not much has changed. Rather, our knowledge has deepened, as it always does when more research becomes available.

Since the early 2000s, we’ve discovered that some of those early studies had design flaws or weaknesses.

  1. Only short-term studies were conducted- spanning a few weeks or months, maybe even just a few workout sessions. Because of this, they didn’t really tell us what would happen over a longer time span.
  1. The conclusions to the studies were also soft – some conclusions such as protein synthesis, glycogen replenishment, or nitrogen balance. Because of this, we didn’t have data on “hard” endpoints such as actual fat loss or lean mass gain.

Interestingly, as more long-term data appeared, nutrient timing started to seem like less of a universal solution. 

Sure, there were still strong indications that it could be useful and important in certain scenarios. For example, many of our clients reported fantastic results. Plus, there’s the famous and often-cited 2006 study by Cribb and Hayes.

In that study, the researchers showed that protein, carbohydrates, and creatine taken around a training session could lead to more muscle mass and strength gain than those same nutrients eaten further from the session.

Nutrient timing may not be all that important

You may be asking, what does this mean?

Well, research studies aren’t perfect, and findings don’t always agree. So rather than looking for all the info on a study-by-study basis, we will summarize it for you.

Based on the current body of research, and our knowledge with Platinum’s current personal training clients, we have come to realize that nutrient timing isn’t particularly important for most people trying to look and feel better.  

To be very clear about the previous statement: No, we don’t think nutrient timing is worthless or obsolete these days. In certain situations, it’s probably really important. (Read more below.) However, lots of really smart and hard-working people are getting lost in the finer points of nutrient timing, while consistently missing out on sleep, forgetting about dense nutrients from vegetables/fruits, or other more important health and lifestyle factors.

So, that’s our bottom line. But, if you’re up for it, let’s go a little deeper.

Post-workout “anabolic window”

For years, the Holy Grail of nutrient timing research has been something we call the post-workout “anabolic window of opportunity.”

The basic idea is that after exercise, especially within the first 30-45 minutes or so, our bodies are craving nutrients.

Movement, especially intense movements, such as weight training or sprint intervals, turns our bodies into nutrient-processing powerhouses.

During this time our muscles suck in glucose rapidly, either oxidizing it as fuel or more readily storing it as glycogen (instead of fat). Post-workout protein consumption cranks up protein synthesis. In fact, one study even showed that waiting longer than 45 minutes after exercise for a protein shake would significantly diminish the benefits of training. Some people have gone as far as the minute they have finished their weight training they run to the change room to guzzle down their protein shake.

But recent, long-term studies suggest that the anabolic window is actually much longer than we previously believed it to be. While it is still wise to have a good protein and carb source pre and post-training, you have anywhere from one to two hours on both sides of your workout to get those in. Research suggests that the total amount of protein and carbohydrate you eat over the course of the whole day is more important for body composition and performance than specific nutrient timing strategies.

Nutrient timing may be important for “Elite Athletes”

This is more applicable to people like pro bodybuilders, physique competitors, and bikini competitors, where that extra one percent of body fat can give you that slight edge over your competition. These athletes often train for long periods of times and sometimes multiple times a day. This is where timing your carbs, and protein can really go a long way. To be able to perform at your highest level every time you step in the gym, utilizing nutrient timing in these situations would be beneficial. 

If you are not an elite athlete but still train more then one time a day, you could benefit from nutrient timing. If this is the case you might want to watch your intake a little closer, to take advantage of the post activity refill and also the rest periods when you can relax and digest some food. For example, if you were training both in the morning and at night it would be wise to eat higher carbohydrate meals before and after your training sessions. During the day you can focus on eating lean protein and leafy vegetables, as well as some complex carbs.

The decision to try nutrient timing or not is up to you. Yes, there are some benefits to doing it the right way but at the same time don’t kill yourself or lose sleep over not getting your timing right or if you missed a meal. As stated above the total amount of protein and carbohydrates you consume over the whole day is much more important than getting the perfect timing pre and post workout. That being said, if you did want to try it for yourself using these simple steps will ensure you get the most out of it:

  1. Consume a meal with slow acting carbohydrates (complex carbs) one to two hours before your exercise. (If time is of the issue you can supplement waxy maize prior to exercise)
  2. After your exercise is complete consume a quick acting protein shake (hydrolyzed, isolate or plant-based protein) followed with quick acting carbs such as dextrose.
  3. 60min to 1.5 hours after your protein shake, you will want to consume a meal high in carbs, low in fat and high in lean protein.
  4. Throughout the rest of the day make sure you are consuming a diet rich in healthy fats, lean protein, leafy vegetables, and complex carbohydrates.
  5. Ensure that you are within your caloric restrictions for the day. Depending on your specific goals. i.e. if trying to gain weight, consume 500 calories more then your maintenance level. If you are trying to lose weight, consume 500 calories less than your maintenance level.

When shopping at Platinum Supplements, we will evaluate each individual client to their specific goals. Once the evaluation has been done we will pick the accurate supplements solely based on your goals. This allows us to not waste your money or time by picking the right products for the individual.

For more information about Nutrient Timing, Nutrition, Training, and Supplementation visit us in-store or contact us via Facebook, Instagram or give us a call! 

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